Dawn Wind
First edition cover






Young adult

Historical era

Dark Ages


Charles Keeping


The Dolphin Ring

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Dawn Wind is a novel first published by Oxford University Press in 1961, illustrated by Charles Keeping. It concerns a British thrall to a Saxon family, who witnesses the final defeat of the Roman Britons and the arrival of St. Augustine, apostle to the Saxons.

It is the sixth novel about the Flavius Aquila family chronologically and the fifth in publication order.


Owain, a fourteen-year-old boy, is the sole survivor of the Romano-British princes' last stand against Ceawlin of the West Saxons. Stabbed and concussed, he retrieves his father's dolphin signet ring and a single young Dog of Kyndylan's war-hounds, and in hopes of finding other survivors staggers north to Glevum, where the citizenry is fleeing the Saxon advance (1). He staggers on northwestward towards Viroconium, Kyndylan's seat, but loses his way in the hills and collapses at the farm of Priscus and Priscilla, who nurse him for weeks (2). After he recovers enough to walk, Priscilla drags him to church Service, where he is blessed by an eloquent preacher who tells him that Ceawlin has overrun the British cities around the Sabrina river. Owain resolves to press on to Viroconium in search of fighting men, but Priscilla offers him "a son's place by the hearth" if he ever returns (3).

Owain reaches Viroconium, but finds it empty, abandoned by its citizens and burned by Saxons (4). The only remaining resident is Regina, a beggar with no where else to go, who begs some game off of Owain and shares with him a store of barley on which she has survived and which she feeds to the wild birds (5). In spring, as Owain ponders how to convince the city-bred Regina to move on from Viroconium, a crew of British cattle-raiders camps in the Forum and hunts them through the town (6). Hiding in the hypocaust of a burnt house, they discover the owner's body, and resolve at last to flee to the British settlements in Gaul. As they cannot afford passage, they decide to head southeast to the shortest crossing – directly into Saxon territory (7). Regina falls ill with lung-sickness as they reach they sea, and Owain takes her to a Saxon farm where he offers to become a thrall in exchange for nursing her. The farmer does not want another thrall, but Beornwulf, a traveller, pays the farmer for him and Dog, and they leave Regina behind, along with Owain's signet ring (8).

A year later, Beornwulf's foster brother Haegel the king of the South Saxons visits Beornstead on the birth of Beornwulf's fouth child and discusses whether Ceawlin of the West Saxons poses a threat to the South, and the likelihood of trouble to Ceawlin from his nephews Coel and Coelwulf in the west and the High King Aethelbert of Kent (9). Two years later, Owain delivers a white foal with the help of Vadir Cedricson, an unpleasant neighbour who explains that the foal is sacred to Frey and will become the stallion of the king's horse herd before, someday, being sacrificed (10). Three years later, after the horse Teitri has been broken, they take him to the king, to Owain's displeasure; on returning home, Dog is attacked by Vadir Cedricson's hound, and Owain has to put him down (11). He buries Dog in the ruined shrine to Silvanus, and, close to despair over the loss, discovers a mosaic of Spring that reminds him so strongly of Regina that he determines to go on living (12).

Beornwulf is sent to give Teitri as a gift to Aethelbert the High King in Kent, leaving Beornstead in Owain's charge, and returns in a ship that is wrecked on the Seal Strand, but is rescued by Owain (13). Beornwulf offers Owain his freedom, and Owain offers him another winter's service in exchange for his freedom and a sword in the spring, when the king sends out the war-summons against Ceawlin (14). Beornwulf, Owain, Vadir, and the rest of the South Saxon fighting men gather at the King's Hall, and Owain discovers only after taking his oath that the British have also raised a host in the west in alliance with Coel, sending Einon Hen as envoy to Haegel (15). Coel sends Owain as messenger to Gerontius of Powys to coordinate their attack on Ceawlin at Wodensbeorg, and though they prevail, Beornwulf is mortally injured and asks Owain to stay at Beornstead until Bryni is fifteen (16).

Three years later, at the wedding of Beornwulf's eldest daughter Helga, Vadir takes an interest in the second daughter Lilla, to her, Owain, and Bryni's horror (17). He asks her mother Athelis for her hand and Athelis does not deem it wise to refuse, but she puts Vadir off for a year's time in return for Owain's offer to stay for the meantime (18). In winter, Bryni thrusts himself into danger at a boar hunt to get the attention of his father's estranged foster-brother the king (19), and in summer Haegel takes Bryni and Owain to a council of the Jute, Angle, Saxon, and Welsh kings at Cantiisburg, which "coincides" with the landing of Augustine, a Christian missionary from Rome, whom Aethelbert allows into Kent (21). That evening, Vadir reveals to Bryni his expectation of marrying Lilla, Bryni insults him, and they are made to settle the dispute by drawing straws for a feat of daring. Vadir, a daring rider, chooses to try to ride Frey's Horse, the unbroken Teitri, and is killed (22). Owain, finally free to go, returns to the farm where he left Regina eleven years before, but finds her lately gone, and his father's ring with her; heeding the sign she left, he finds her waiting in Viroconium, and tells her they will go to Priscus and Priscilla (23).


"Artos was dead, nearly a hundred years ago" (1). Dawn Wind culminates in the arrival of St. Augustine of Canterbury, traditionally 597 CE, and spans 12 years before it, i.e. 586-597 CE.

  • c. 500, 3 generations earlier: Artos led the Britons
  • 562, 23 years before (1): Ceawlin defeated Aethelbert at Wibbendune
  • 584-5, Previous winter (4): Regina's mistress dies
  • 585, Early spring: Kyndylan calls up his warbands (1)
  • 585, 2 months later: Kyndylan defeated on the Corinium road (1). Owain is 14.
    • Days later (1): Owain makes it to Glevum.
    • 2 or 3 days later (2): Owain stumbles upon the Priscus farm. Feverish for at least 3 days.
  • 585, "Long past midsummer" (2): Owain recovers enough to get up
    • 2 Sundays later (3): Priscilla drags Owain to service and offers to adopt him.
    • Next morning (4), late summer: Owain leaves for Viroconium.
    • Days later (4). Owain arrives in Viroconium. Meets Regina on the second evening. They team up (5).
  • 585-6, Winter (6): Owain and Regina forage in Viroconium.
  • 586, Spring (6): Cattle raiders camp in the Forum. Owain and Regina leave Viroconium for the coast (7).
  • 586, Late spring (8): They reach they sea. Regina falls ill. Owain trades himself to Beornwulf. Owain is 15.
  • 587, 1 year later (9), 2 years since Aquae Sulis: Gerd born. 4th visit of Haegel the King. Possibility of war with Ceawlin. Owain is 16.
  • 589, 2 years later, spring (10): Teitri born. Owain is 18.
  • 592, 3 years later (11): Winter, Teitri broken and Widreth dies. Spring, Gerd dies. Summer, Bryni is 10, Horn is 12, Dog is 10. Teitri goes to the king. Dog killed (11). Owain rescues Beornwulf (13). Beornwulf offers to free him (14). Owain is 21-22.
  • 593, Spring (14): War-summons. Owain is freed after nearly 8 years. Coel revolts against Ceawlin.
    • 7 days later (15): South Saxon army gathers at King's Hall over 4 days.
    • Next day (16): South Saxons march north
    • 3 days later (16): Join up with Coel's host. Coel and Co. have attacked Ceawlin's sons.
    • Sunday (16): Coel sends Owain to the British camp
    • Tuesday (16): Meets with Gerontius
    • Thursday (16): Battle of Wodensbeorg. Beornwulf leaves Beornstead in Owain's stewardship until Bryni is 15, in 4 years. Helga engaged.
  • 593, Summer (17): Skirmishing with Ceawlin.
  • 593, Late summer (17), 2 months after Wodensbeorg: Sussex men return home.
  • 594, Next autumn (17): Ceawlin is dead.
  • 596, 2 summers later (17): Helga marries.
    • 3 days later (18): Vadir asks Athelis for Lilla.
    • 3 days later (18): Athelis puts Vadir off for a year.
  • 596-7, Winter (19): The boar hunt. Bryni and Owain reacquainted with Haegel.
  • 597, Spring (20): Bryni turns 15. Owain stays.
  • 597, Midsummer (20): Haegel takes them to the council at Cantiisburg. Einon Hen envoy for 3 years.
    • The 3rd evening (20): Augustine lands.
    • The next day: Augustine meets Aethelbert and the assembled kings of the Angles, Saxons, and Welsh
    • That evening: Vadir is killed.
  • 597, Summer: Owain leaves Seals' Island. Regina's mistress dies and she leaves her farm.
  • 597, Early autumn: Owain returns to Regina's farm. She has left a month earlier.
  • 597, Autumn: Owain finds Regina in Viroconium and they return to Priscus's farm.


  • Aelle (9), conqueror and founder of the South Saxon Kingdom
  • Aethelbert of Kent (9), Jutish High King, with a grudge against Ceawlin. "he has the kind of cold merchant nature that hates well". Great-grandson of Hengest; husband of Bertha (9)
  • Artos the Bear (1, 11), British king 100 years earlier.
  • Athelis (9), Beornwulf's wife. Reddish-fair hair (10). Sharp features. Stoic (11). An herb patch is "her rest and her joy" (18).
  • Augustine (20) of Canterbury, "a tall proud man with cold eyes...I should judge him strong in his own esteem." (20). "This is a great man, and he loves God, but he is without nderstanding and without humility." (21).
  • Beowa (20), the Sun-Hero who slew the Winter-Fiend, aka Beowulf
  • Beornwulf (8), Owain's Saxon master. "A fair, thickset young man with a skin tanned and wind-burned to the colour of copper, and pale straight brows that almost met across the bridge of his nose." (8). Foster-brother of Haegel the king of the South Saxons (9). Blue-eyed. Only son of an only son. Dies at Wodensbeorg (16).
  • Bertha (20), queen of Kent, a Frankish princess; a Christian. "A woman with a face like a horse, but a very gentle horse." "a beautiful voice, low-pitched and vibrant".
  • Brand the Smith (11), Horn's father
  • Branwen (3), Priscus's short-legged cattle dog
  • Bryni Beornwulfson (9), third child of Beornwulf and Athelis (9). Reddish hair and green eyes. Extremely impetuous (10). "not given to awareness of other people's moods" "wild and headstrong" (18). Whistles absent-mindedly. A good hunter. (19).
  • Caedman (9), "half-bred" farm thrall of Beornstead
  • Ceawlin (1), Lord of the West Saxons
  • Cissa (9), son of Aelle, namesake of Cissa's Caester (Regnum, Chichester)
  • Clovis (21), former king of the Franks
  • Coel (9) (Ceol), eldest nephew of Ceawlin, ruler of lands conquered from Kyndylan (9). Rebels against Ceawlin (15). Blue-eyed and bearded (16).
  • Coelwulf (9), nephew of Ceawlin, ruler of lands conquered from Kyndylan (9). Rebels against Ceawlin (15). Blue-eyed and bearded (16).
  • Conmail of Glevum (1), leader of a warband destroyed with Kyndylan
  • Cunor Bigmouth (6), British cattle raider
  • Cuthgils (9), youngest nephew of Ceawlin, ruler of the Chiltern uplands (9). Rebels (16).
  • Dog (1), a young war-hound of Kyndylan's pack
  • Edmund Whitefang (16), owes Beornwulf money for half a herring boat
  • Edwulf (20) the Coast Warden, anounces the landing of Augustine
  • Einon Hen (15), British envoy to the South Saxons. "small, oldish man", one amber eye, grey hair (15). "a great beaked nose" (20).
  • Ella (23), neighbour of Regina's farm
  • Fang (11), Vadir's dog, who kills Dog
  • Farinmail of Aquae Sulis (1), leader of a warband destroyed with Kyndylan.
  • Frey (10), Saxon fertility god, to whom white horses are sacred
  • Gamal Witterson (13, 17), elderly headman of the Seals' Island settlement
  • Garm (19), Haegel's greatest boarhound, killed.
  • Gerd (9), fourth child of Beornwulf and Athelis, "blue-eyed and barley-haired" (10). Dies aged 5 (11).
  • Germanus (21), soldier-bishop who defended the Kentish coat from Saxons c. 400 CE
  • Gerontius (16), Prince of Powys, a tall, "very dark man".
  • Golden-eye (10), Beornwulf's favourite mare.
  • The Great Mother (23), goddess invoked by Regina's young mistress
  • Grip (13), the boat-builder's son's dog, offspring of Dog
  • Gunhilda (9, 14), Beornstead bondwoman
  • Gyrth (10), "half-bred" farm thrall of Beornstead
  • Haegel the King (9) of the South Saxons, Beornwulf's foster-brother. "very dark for a Saxon" (9)
  • Halfdean (15), Haegel's young son
  • Helga (9), eldest child of Beornwulf and Athelis, "blue-eyed and barley-haired" (11). Makes a good match but seems "scarcely interested" in it (17).
  • Hengest (20), leader of the old Saxon invasions
  • Horn (10), the Smith's youngest son, Bryni's sidekick, "square brown face" (11).
  • Hugin the Raven (10), a stallion of Haegel's, sire of Teitri
  • Hunfirth (14), of the Seals' Island settlement
  • Hunna (19), Seals' Island creek ferryman (aka Munna)
  • Ingwy (20), Aethelbert's harper
  • Kyndylan the Fair (1), last prince of the Romano-Britons, defeated and killed outside Aquae Sulis.
  • Lilla (9), second child of Beornwulf and Athelis, blue-eyed and barley-haired" (11). "there was more in her to like [than Helga]" (17).
  • Lindhard (20, Bishop of Cantiisburg, Bertha's chaplain.
  • Little Father (3), preacher to the hill farms, an eloquent man, "small, fierce, and fiery"
  • Maximus (2), 4th century emperor of Britain
  • Munna (9), old ferryman at the creek on the Regnum road (aka Hunna ch. 19)
  • The Oiscings (9), Aethelbert's Saxon royal line
  • Osric (22), young Saxon warrior in Aethebert's hall
  • Ossian (1), Owain's elder brother, killed fighting for Kyndylan. Aspired to be an herbalist.
  • Oswy (17), elderly wedding guest, piper
  • Owain (1), second son of the dolphin ring family. Dark haired and thin, "who wore–though he did not know it–an odd stillness in his face as though it were a mask, or a shield". Good with his hands (3). "carried himself even now like a ten-point stag, which is to say like a king" (9). Scratches his old scar when thinking (19). "he was always something of a lone wolf." (21).
  • Marcus Petronius of Vicenza, Standard Bearer to the 14th Legion, aged 39 years; buried outside Viroconium (4)
  • Priscilla (2), "a tall iron-grey woman...she would stand no nonsense".
  • Priscus (2), Priscilla's easy-going husband, former master potter in Glevum.
  • Redwald (20), king of the East Angles
  • Regina (4), Viroconium beggar, a thin, dark, filthy twelve-year-old with rain-grey eyes. "There was a whine in her voice... all her movements were as though quicksilver ran in her veins." (5).
  • Scyld (22) the Father of his People
  • Teitri (10), a white stallion raised by Owain, "a name given sometimes to men but seldom to horses, for it meant simply 'foal'" (11). Given to Aethelbert to be the God Horse (12).
  • Thor (10), Saxon god
  • Ulf (13), of the Seals' Island settlement
  • Ulpius Pudentius (5), miser of Viroconium. Lived by the West Gate and died hiding in the hypocaust.
  • Vadir Cedricson (9), the Hault, a skilled horseman, with a club-foot and a touchy disposition, breeder of vicious red dogs. Head of a numerous family, descended on his mother's side from Aelle. "only six or seven years older than Owain, with pale eyes, and faint lines that might have been either pain or a perpetual sneer running from the wings of the nostrils to the corners of the hard mobile mouth." (10). Fair-haired (15). "silken voice" (20). "insane courage" (22).
  • Wauleye (11), Beornstead sheepdog
  • Wagtail (17), Owain's horse on the Ceawlin campaign
  • Wayland (14), Saxon smith god
  • Uncle Widreth (9), very old half-British bastard eldest son of Beornstead's founder; claims to be the son of a selkie. Cattle doctor, mender, storyteller. Owain's confidant (9). Dies 6 years after Owain's arrival (11).
  • Wiermund (17), Helga's husband, Gamal the headman's grandson
  • Woden (15) the All-Father, Saxon god


  • Armorica, Gaul (2) (Brittany): Maximus planted a veterans' settlement. Destination of British refugees (2)
  • Former British territory:
    • Aquae Sulis (1) (Bath): Roman city near which Kyndylan is defeated (1). Overrun by Ceawlin (3).
    • Dumnonia (2), south-west Britain
    • A ford outside Aquae Sulis on the Corinium road, where Kyndylan was defeated by Ceawlin (1)
    • Glevum (Gloucester) (1), Roman city on the Sabrina. Owain arrives days after Kyndylan's defeat to find the city evacuating.
    • Sabrina river (1) (the Severn), flows south past Viroconium to Glevum and opens on Sabrina's Sea.
    • Venta (16), the Saxons gather north of here
    • The Virocon (4), upland dominating Viroconium
    • Viroconium of the White Walls (1) (Wroxeter), Kyndylan's seat. Owain's family farm was a day's march southeast (1, 5). On the Sabrina river (3). Pass graveyards and the Amphitheatre entering by the South Gate. Abandoned and burned by the Saxons (4).
  • Cymru (2) (Wales), "wild marches" of western Britain
    • Gwynedd (2), north Wales, a bishopric
    • Isca Silurium (2) (Caerleon), "the City of Legions", destination of the Glevum refugees.
    • The Priscus farm (2), 2-3 days northwest of Glevum. "It stood at the end of a shallow combe, a cluster of two or three turf-thatched  bothies and a cattle fold, all within its encircling grey stone wall... its house-place walls were lime-washed in the Roman manner"
  • The Kingdom of Kent:
    • Cantiisburg (16), Aethelbert's capital, formerly of the Cantii and Roman Durnovaria. Aethelbert occupies the Governor's Palace. Bertha attends the Church of St. Martin. (20).
    • Ebbesfleet (20), Augustine's landing-place
    • Rutupiae (21) (Richborough), ruined Roman fort, Augustine's camp
    • Tanatus Island (21), marshy island opposite Rutupiae
    • Dubris (20) (Dover): Port, site of a Roman pharos, with a legionary road ot Cantiisburg
  • Icknield Way (16), an ancient track
  • Londinium (9), city ruled by Ceawlin
  • Romeburg (20)
  • South Saxon Land (9) (Sussex), Kingdom of the South Saxons. "Seven secret rivers".
    • Cissa's Caester (9) (Chichester), Saxon name for Regnum, near Haegel's Hall. Deserted.
    • The Forest of Thorns (8) (the Weald?), on the south coast
    • The King's farm (11), half a day's ride north of Beornstead
    • Regnum (9) (Chichester), Roman port northwest of Beornstead, called Cissa's Caester by the Saxons
    • Saxon farm (8), near the coast in the Forest of Thorns, where Owain leaves Regina
    • Seals' Island (9) (Selsey, Manhood Peninsula), peninsula south of Beornstead
      • The Black Wood (19), Seals' Island, north of Pagga's Ham
      • Beornstead (9), Beornwulf's outdweller farm on Seals' Island, founded by a second son a generation after Aelle's conquest.
      • Bremma's Dyke (9), north of Beornstead
      • Cymenshore (9), rocky coast southeast side of Seal Island
      • The Haven Marshes (9), north of Beornstead
      • The Maen Wood (10) (Manhood Peninsula), common land between Regnum and Seals' Island
      • Pagga's Ham (19) (Pagham), settlement on the north side of Windy Harbour
      • Shrine to Silvanus (10) just inside the woods west of the Regnum road, allegedly haunted
      • Widda's Ham (10), settlement on the eastern (?) coast of Seals' Island.
      • Windy Harbour (9) (Pagham harbour), harbour of Beornwulf's settlement.
  • Wibbendune (9), where Ceawlin defeated Aethelbert 25 years earlier
  • Wilton (16), Ceawlin's capital
  • Wodensbeorg (16), "ancient hill fort...the strongest place in all North Wessex". Ceawlin's camp.

Flora and faunaEdit

  • Moorhen (1)
  • Rush (1)
  • Water-crowfoot (1)
  • Hawthorn (1, 5, 6, 8, 10)
  • Pear (1)
  • Alder (1)
  • Osier (1)
  • Willow-herb (1)
  • Badger (1)
  • Raven (1)
  • Wild fowl (1)
  • Grey wagtail (2)
  • Swallow (2)
  • Midge (2)
  • Bees (3)
  • Bell-heather (3)
  • Harebell (4)
  • Poplar (4)
  • Shepherd's purse (4)
  • Bramble (4), crimson-berried
  • Traveller's-joy (4)
  • Hare (4)
  • Blackberry (4)
  • Quince (4)
  • Chiff-chaff (4), eats flies
  • Hazel (4, 8)
  • Fern (4)
  • Owl (4)
  • Hedgehog (5, 8)
  • Fox (5)
  • Cats (5)
  • Sparrow (5)
  • Robin (5)
  • Chaffinch (5)
  • Thrush (5, 6, 7)
  • Blue tit (5)
  • Olive (5)
  • Wild hyacinth (5)
  • Wood pigeon (6)
  • Roebuck (6)
  • Blackthorn (6)
  • Rosemary (6)
  • Holly (6, 8)
  • Juniper (6)
  • Convolvulus (6)
  • Willow wren (7)
  • Green plover (8)
  • Yew (8)
  • Dock (8)
  • Honeysuckle (8)
  • Crack willow (8)
  • Thorn tree (8)
  • Oak (9)
  • Curlew (10)
  • Sandpiper (10)
  • Warbler (11)
  • Horned poppy (21)

Historical and literary backgroundEdit

Adaptations Edit

Dawn Wind was adapted for radio in six episodes broadcast by the BBC Home Service from 24 August-28 September 1962. It was adapted by Felix Felton and produced by David Davis.

  • Part 1: The Breaking of Britain (BBC Home Service Basic, 24 August 1962)[1]
  • Part 2: The Olive Wood Fire (BBC Home Service Basic, 31 August 1962)[2]
  • Part 3: The Silver Foal (BBC Home Service Basic, 7 September 1962)[3]
  • Part 4: The Hour of the Ravens (BBC Home Service Basic, 14 September 1962)[4]
  • Part 5: The Lantern Gleams (BBC Home Service Basic, 21 September 1962)[5]
  • Part 6: The Return (BBC Home Service Basic, 28 September 1962)[6]

Publication historyEdit

References Edit